WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a call for comments on the agency’s plan for data collection for its pilot program to test the validity of assertions by many trucking stakeholders that the industry should return to a split sleeper berth rule.
Comments are due by November 27.
The FMCSA has proposed the pilot program to allow temporary regulatory relief from the agency's sleeper berth regulation for a limited number of commercial drivers who have a valid commercial driver's license, and who regularly use a sleeper berth to accumulate their required 10 hours of non-duty work status.
The 10 hours must include eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth.
During the pilot program, participating drivers would have the option to split their sleeper berth time within parameters specified by FMCSA.
Driver metrics would be collected for the duration of the study, and participants' safety performance and fatigue levels would be analyzed.
This pilot program seeks to produce statistically reliable evidence on the question as to whether split sleeper berth time affects driver safety performance and fatigue levels, the FMCSA said.
During listening sessions for the Hours of Service rulemaking, the agency said it heard from many drivers that they would like some regulatory flexibility to be able to sleep when they get tired or as a countermeasure to traffic congestion (i.e., an exemption from the requirement for consolidated sleeper berth time).
The FMCSA said it had reviewed the literature and conducted its own laboratory studies on the subject, noting that the majority of sleep studies to date demonstrate that well-timed split sleep has either a positive or no effect on subsequent neurobehavioral performance.
The pilot program would determine whether split sleeper berth time affects driver safety performance and fatigue levels.
Details of the data collection plan for this pilot program are subject to change based on comments to the docket and further review by analysts, the agency said.
Participating drivers will drive an instrumented vehicle for up to three consecutive months.
At a minimum, FMCSA said it is proposing to gather the following data during the study:
Other information that may be needed, such as vehicle miles traveled (VMT), will also be collected through the participating carrier. Every effort will be made to reduce the burden on the carrier in collecting and reporting this data.
On June 27, FMCSA published a notice in the Federal Register with a 60-day public comment period to announce the proposed information collection. As of the closing date of this past August 28, the agency received five comments in response to the notice.
One comment questioned the need for a pilot program given that the proposal is similar to the HOS rules prior to 2003. This commenter expressed an opinion that the HOS rules should just be reverted to the prior to 2003 HOS rules. While FMCSA understands the commenter's frustration with the process, the agency stated its commitment to public safety “requires us to conduct a pilot program to collect scientific data and achieve statistically significant findings before considering any revision to our current regulations.”
Another commenter expressed a similar opinion regarding the HOS rules, which he felt should never have been changed in 2003. He felt that the HOS needed to be changed and re-evaluated for every different division of CMVs, but did express support of flexibility in sleeper berth times. FMCSA appreciates this commenter taking the time to provide feedback on the HOS rules, but felt that this comment went beyond the scope of this pilot program; however, the agency appreciates his support of allowing a flexible sleeper berth pilot program to move forward.
The remaining three commenters were supportive of the proposed pilot program and proposed information collection, saying that this would make the roads safer and allow drivers to manage their duty hours more efficiently and use common sense to not drive when tired.
FMCSA stated that it has not made any changes or revisions to the design of the study based on the comments.